Photo: Jamai Photography

By: Fatima Syed

This August, Toronto’s newest and fastest rising media and communications group celebrates its one year anniversary. As the founder and CEO of FATMO Media Group, I have learned countless lessons in this inaugural year of operating an emerging startup. Our first quarter of business in 2018 was met with media frenzy, as we unveiled our company and celebrated its launch at the #FASHIONVIRTUALREALITY event, in partnership with Toronto virtual reality firm VR Vision Inc. In November 2018, the concept for the Toronto Corporate Fashion Show (sponsored by Deloitte) came to life, ushering warmth, energy and artistic vision into an otherwise grey and dull Canadian pre-holiday season. FATMO Media Group collaborated with our co-founding partner company, creative agency Pearls & Sequence, to launch a cutting edge, exclusive event concept at the Bisha Hotel. Not only did the vibrant studio show feature exclusively Canadian menswear and womenswear designers, it also brought the focus to diverse models of all body types, including Millennial staff members from our corporate sponsor Deloitte.

Fast forward to June 2019, and FATMO Media Group has been privileged to manage event communications and guest/media relations for clients such as fashion entrepreneurship organization DivaGirl Fashion Toronto and luxury fine jewellery label Sitara Jewels.

We have done it all, while munching Eatable Inc. popcorn and admiring the gorgeous floral decor of wedding design and decorating company Ethereal Creators. As we worked on content creation, public relations, marketing and blog development for our own clients, our own digital media property inFATuated started to take on a life of its own. We have expanded our team, with a partnership with Ryerson University’s School of Journalism which has seen a talented junior PR, editorial and sales team join the #letsgetinFATuated network. We are slowly turning into the unspoken last word in disruptive Canadian media, proving that the mainstream world of magazines and newspapers is ever evolving. Whether we are bringing you the latest in fashion and lifestyle trends on inFATuated Blog, welcoming you at our client events or hosting event concepts of our own, we are the media conglomerate of the future.

As Toronto’s youngest media and communications CEO at age 27, I have personally and professionally faced many challenges along this journey. For any readers of ours who are aspiring entrepreneurs or emerging young professionals themselves, I have curated a list of my most valuable lessons in career, business and life.

  1. It’s not just about what’s now, it’s about what’s next: As you handle your daily deadlines, conference calls and client meetings, it’s important to keep the future in mind. What does your company look like in six months, one year or five years? Never lose track of those long-term business goals.
  2. No woman is an island: It’s easy enough to feel alone in the early stages of your business (particularly if you are a sole proprietor and do not have a co-founder), but the key is to surround yourself with the right crowd. If you choose your clients, business partners, creative collaborators, corporate sponsors and staff correctly, you can easily turn that desert island into the beach party of the summer.
  3. Network is net worth, but never let your network dictate your net worth: If you are starting your business on a small scale, it’s normal to hear that you are “just a freelancer” or have a “side gig.” Never let anyone belittle or underestimate your small business, which could easily become the next big, scalable corporation of the future.
  4. Your business is not leisure, it’s treasure: For those who work in the luxury lifestyle, fashion, entertainment and digital media sectors, it’s easy enough to have the public and even your peers confuse your business as leisure. While it may be leisure for them, for you, it is truly treasure. In other words, ignore the excitement and parties happening around you at all hours, and aim for earning those rubies and diamonds which you truly deserve.
  5. Be a marketable yet authentic face for your brand: As a business owner, you truly represent the face, corporate culture and public image of your brand. Stay visible and stay relevant, but make sure that your image always stays true to who you are as an individual as well.
  6. Allow others to celebrate with you, but remind them that your lifestyle is more than a party: Whether it’s a launch party, client event or any other type of celebrations, a new business will immediately attract attention from friends, colleagues, family and contacts. Give those in your circle a chance to enjoy these milestones or occasions with you- but make sure they are aware that the entrepreneurship lifestyle is hardly glamorous at first!
  7. Be the mentor that you needed when you were 20: At 19 turning 20, I was briefly working three part-time jobs. Although this is not unusual these days, it was certainly unusual several years ago and a sign of a major social or economic privilege gap . Sad to say, I did not have any mentors. I also had minimal support, minimal resources and minimal advantages. Today as a young woman in leadership, I constantly think of my staff’s needs. Do I want girls crying in the bathroom, OR, do I want girls making others cry in the boardroom? Ideally, neither. I want awareness of mental health in the workplace, a tech-savvy digital workplace delivering results and a dynamic, creative team who is never intimidated or alone at work.
  8. Avoid “affectionate yet ineffectual” people, at all costs: They could be the friend who is never present, or only around for a good time. They could also be business contacts who are there for the industry parties and have warmth or affection toward you, but fail to deliver you results.
  9. Digitally disconnect on occasion- even if you own a digital empire: As a digital CEO, my phone is always on. Unless it’s Saturday- that’s when I answer texts back slowly, enjoy a night out or a night in and prioritize time with friends and family.
  10. Reach out to your alma mater: Once again, FATMO Media Group owes a great deal of its success to our talent from Ryerson University’s School of Journalism. Contact your school’s alumni organization if you are starting a business, as not only can you make connections for your business, you can also recruit some key talent from the current undergraduate classes.
  11. Attend as many industry events and functions as possible: Getting out there to shake hands, clink glasses and snap a selfie or two is never a bad move. In media, we are inundated with VIP invites, press passes and complimentary tickets to shows, festivals, exhibits, launch parties and more.
  12. Find an entrepreneurship role model in your own demographic: Mingling with other Millennial professionals can help you garner results, as your own demographic is more likely to know about the latest in tech, digital media and startups.
  13. Remember that life goes on for everyone as usual- even if your own life is anything but usual: By the end of Summer 2019 and the end of the freshman year of this company, I will have been a bridesmaid in two weddings over the course of one year. That’s right- all while scaling up a media conglomerate, becoming a media figure/influencer, continuing my career as a digital journalist, exploring modelling on the side and being a manager to a very young and remote team. Others’ lives will continue to move forward, whether that includes weddings, career changes, promotions or new homes. Celebrate with them, rejoice in their achievements, but never forget your own goals.
  14. Channel your creativity into overcoming any career failures, losses or insecurities: Maybe you wish you had more financial stability, a larger audience or were well-known in your industry. Take all this frustration, and transform your unwritten chapter into a success story.
  15. Recognize transactional individuals who wish to participate in a toxic economy or toxic exchanges: As they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. For any businesses based in major, cosmopolitan cities like our beautiful home base of Toronto, you will constantly encounter all kinds of individuals. Avoid anyone who wants your services or products for free, or at a very low, below market cost. Also, avoid conducting business with those with inappropriate intentions, or goals of working with you solely to access your network or connections.
  16. Have a sense of humour: My team and I have a group chat where we all keep each other laughing, positive and motivated. Team inside jokes, camaraderie, outings and befriending clients to an extent all help with an effective startup corporate culture. I also laugh at myself regularly- I’d rather do that than cry alone!
  17. Understand that business IS personal: I heard “don’t take it personally” constantly in the early stages of my career. Often, this signifies the corporate age and wage gaps. Those who are younger, financially strapped, own new companies or come from families or backgrounds without means are sadly forced by society to take business personally- they literally cannot afford to fail. A failed deal, venture or other business loss means that bills, groceries, educational costs, transportation and living costs are impacted. Understand that your clients are investing in you, your sponsors have their professional reputations on the line and your staff/assistants trust you to provide a safe working environment. Stand and deliver, proudly.
  18. … But also understand that business IS NOT personal: Part of being a leader is learning how to re-emerge after a professional failure or misstep, with the least harm to those around you. In the first year of business, it’s common to face rejection, make errors in judgement, be too trusting or not open enough to new risks and concepts. Think logically, and manage your emotions.
  19. Treat your clients like platinum (not just gold!), even if their budgets may not be platinum. Clients are a major part of every business, whether emerging or established. Treat your client base the same way that you would like to be treated- and you deserve nothing less than platinum.
  20. Understand that true gratitude should go further than a “thank you” email: Handwritten cards, the occasional VIP invite, a curated gift basket or showing presence and support at the business/client events of your well-wishers all make a world of difference. I believe that they also make a difference in this world. On that note- THANK YOU for reading inFATuated!
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